Kitsilano – Olympic Dead Zone?

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Chantal Eustace and Rebecca Lindell of the Vancouver Sun are reporting that everything from Kits to the Drive are Olympic dead zones.

Compared to the Olympic herds tearing through the downtown core, areas such as Kitsilano, South Main Street or Commercial Drive seem downright empty. Depending on whom you talk to, these local hubs are either Olympic dead zones or understated hot spots — offering a much-needed reprieve from three-hour lineups, elbow-to-elbow sidewalks and standing-room-only pavilions.

Their article seems to have some mixed messages when it comes to Kitsilano.

It seems easier than usual to find street parking in Kitsilano since the Games began, observed Unity Whittaker, owner of U — The Life Accessory Store.

“Business is almost quieter than usual for us,” she said, adding it’s been disappointing. “I thought it would be busy.”

But next door at Brown’s Social House on Fourth Avenue, customer volume has gone up over the past week, manager Scott Harris said Sunday.

He said the weekend was busier than the opening weekend of the Games, bringing in customers from around the world, including Russia and Sweden.

“It’s an international crowd,” said Harris, before excusing himself to get back to work. “We are extremely busy this weekend.”

What does everybody else think? And have the Kitsilano Chamber of Commerce and the West 4th Avenue Business Improvement Association done enough to get Games visitors to cross the Burrard Street bridge?

Last modified: February 23, 2010

8 Responses to " Kitsilano – Olympic Dead Zone? "

  1. Jody says:

    I was in Roots last week and they said they were doing huge business.

  2. Andrea says:

    I see tourists on the weekend strolling W4th and sadly waiting in hour long line up’s for Sophie’s (SO many better breakfast joints in this area). But as a kits local I was really dissapointed there was no house or olympic venue in the heart of kits. Very missed opportunity for businesses and locals who just want to take in the Olympic fun.

  3. PJ says:

    I am quite happy to keep Kits for the locals!

  4. Ian says:

    I tried about 6 pubs before I found a seat for the Canada-USA men’s hockey game on the weekend, I’d say it’s busy here, of course it’s nothing compared to downtown.

  5. Good question. Why is 4th Ave an Olympic Dead Zone?

    The answer is really quite simple; the Olympics is a monopoly, and unless a retailer reaches out online to athletes and spectators well before the crowds arrive there is little chance they will make it to your location.

    We’ve been advising and training local companies since 2004 how to leverage Olympic momentum, in fact we wrote the first Olympics survival guide for retailers and called it “Leverage Olympic Momentum.” It was sold at Duthies for years, but unfortunately it’s now only available online. We also have a companion blog that shares secrets about the Olympic monopoly and teaches retailers how to entice athletes and spectators away from the bustling downtown core.

    The secret weapon for companies outside Olympic zones is twitter and blogs. Most retailers cannot afford the outrageous advertising rates on television or local newspapers, but they can invest in their own websites and buy online ads to boost their visibility.

    Most people don’t realize Canwest, which owns The Vancouver Sun, The Province, The Courier, Global TV, and a string of newspapers across Canada, is an Olympic partner, and that Canwest is well paid by VANOC and the IOC to tell the Olympic side of the Olympic story. The Globe and Mail is also an Olympic partner. Consequently, unless a retailer did independent research, or they contracted a company like ours, they would never know that Olympic athletes and spectators never make it beyond the Olympic zones unless they are enticed. It’s like this in all Olympic cities, but you would be hard pressed to ever find this information in your local newspaper. In fact, over the years you primarily found the exact opposite information telling you that everyone in an Olympic region will prosper. Sure Chantal Eustace and Rebecca Lindell of the Vancouver Sun talk about it now, but it’s a little late don’t you think? I reported this was going to happen way back in 2004, and local newspapers knew it too, all of them, but not one of them helped us get the message out to retailers in a responsible timely manner.

    Unfortunately, because most retailers only heard half the story they simply sat back and waited for the Olympic crowds to arrive, which as you can now see, they didn’t, and never do, except of course for companies that are proactive and reach out online to connect, like lululemon, Scotiabank, Browns and a few others. Sophie’s Cosmic Café is an anomaly, so don’t feel bad you didn’t reach their level of Olympic success. They are competitive and get it, and they’ve been getting it for years. It’s a Canadian restaurant with American sensibilities straight out of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.

    The Olympics is a monopoly, which means they jealously guard their sponsors like HBC, RBC, Cocoa Cola, and McDonalds. The reason they do is because if athletes and spectators spend their money at an independent location on 4th, they will have less to spend on Olympic merchandise downtown. It’s marketing 101. It wasn’t a coincidence HBC set up a Superstore downtown. Way back in 2005 VANOC boasted this superstore would suck $22.6 million out of the local economy. We argued that these spoils should be spread more evenly throughout the community, but unfortunately local newspapers had retailers convinced everyone in our region would prosper, so not to worry. Some now say retailers were gullible and naive, but we’ve always maintained they simply trusted Olympic organizations and local news media to advise and treat them fairly.

    One commenter here, PJ, says he/she is quite happy to keep Kits for the locals, and I completely understand the sentiment PJ, me too because I also live here, but, you should keep in mind Kits retailers are going bankrupt faster than you can keep track of store closings, and a lot of the struggle is directly related to Olympic costs. Taxes have risen sharply in order to pay for 2010 infrastructure, and it is about to get critical. Don’t believe politicians who say we are on the rebound or that the Olympics made BC and Vancouver healthier than the rest of Canada. Of course they would say that because they too are Olympic partners. And if it is true at all, it is only slightly and at best a temporary blip. There are way too many closed stores on 4th and Broadway for me to believe this rhetoric.

    We tried hard to get business organizations to step up and help local retailers understand the Olympics monopoly, but unfortunately each time we approached them they ignored us, and by ignore I mean they wouldn’t even return our emails or phone calls. We suspect that too many business associations and chamber leaders have political ties, which means they too in an indirect way are Olympic biased. You might be surprised to know that in other Olympic regions, like Salt Lake City for example, the chamber of commerce came to the aid of local businesses and helped protect them from the overbearing Olympic monopoly. Not the case in Vancouver.

    In a nutshell, VANOC, local mainstream news companies, and business association leaders all knew this was going to happen, but they chose to downplay it or look the other way. One of my favourite sayings is, “Never let your short term greed get in the way of your long term greed” and it fits here perfectly. Retailers were tricked into being complacent. Media guru Noam Chomsky calls what newspapers did to Vancouver retailers “necessary illusion and manufactured consent,” which basically means they were telling you one thing, but had a hidden agenda. They were only pretending to be on your side. If they were truly genuine in their motives they would have jumped to the aid of the Olympia restaurant on Denman, or would have been more aggressive in helping retailer Susan Heyes on Cambie, but they didn’t because they are Olympic partners. Heyes won a $600,000 settlement, and the Olympia still has their sign, but they defended themselves on their own without the help of news media. One went to court and the other used social media and the court of public opinion.

    There is however a silver lining in Kits, but again, if you trust news media and politicians you will miss the boat once again.

    Here’s the secret, and btw, I have zero affiliation with Kitsilano.ca, in fact I just discovered them today and have no idea who is behind the blog. The secret is to quit investing your advertising money in dead tree newspapers and instead put your money in YOUR website, blog, twitter, and in websites like this. The world will look at Vancouver for a long time because of the Olympics, but we know through research that post Olympic tourists will never make it to suburbs like Kits unless you reach out online and entice them to your shop. Print advertising is dead. Even locals don’t use it as much as they have in the past. Canwest recently filed for bankruptcy protection. Social media is the most cost effective solution for retailers.

    Here are a few links from my blog you might find helpful. Much of it was published years ago, but now that you’ve been through the Olympic war zone it is even more relevant today and easier to understand than it was in 2006.

    TIPS for Retailers Outside Olympics Zones
    http://www.olyblog.com/main.shtml

    Newspapers Work for the Olympics, Not You
    http://www.olyblog.com/f/06/ShawLeeF09282006.shtml#INQUIRY

    Olympic Survival Guide: Leverage Olympic Momentum
    http://www.leverageolympicmomentum.com/LOM/CitizenJournalism.htm

    Olympic ZONES: What You Need to Know
    http://area46.com/2010/

  6. RC says:

    U Life Store has no concept of how to run a business that is why they are loosing business and others are profiting from Olympics. Customer service and an owner that works in the store always helps raise the profits. Just a suggestion.

  7. Brenda says:

    Agreed